“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good be from Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (John 1:46).

By responding to a skeptic of the faith with, “Come and see,” you are embracing a tremendous responsibility. While Nathanael was familiar with the messianic prophecies, and would measure all such claims against the sacred text, unlike Philip, you and I are not afforded that benefit when conversing with our skeptical friends about matters of faith. In the post-christian world of today, there is a glaring unfamiliarity with the bible and, sadly, even within the confessing church. The implication being, when you extend the challenging invitation, “Come and see,” in regard to examining the Christian faith, it is you and the life you live that becomes the proclamation, teaching, and translation for their understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

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“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good be from Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (John 1:46).

News that the anticipated Messiah has been found (v.45) is greeted with skepticism by Nathanael. When so much of today’s religious expression is driven by fear, superstition, sensationalism, mysticism, and political zealots, a dose of skepticism can actually be beneficial, if the life of faith is to be properly understood. Philip could not have offered a better response to his skeptical friend; someone who makes decisions on the basis of objective criteria, not the subjective, emotional experiences of others. The challenge to come and see confirms that the Christian faith has legs of its own, and can withstand rigorous intellectual inquiry.

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“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses wrote in the Law, and the prophets also wrote: Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth’” (John 1:45).

Though the initial response of Nathanael will be one of skepticism (v.46), he is willing to consider the facts as they are presented by his friend Philip. In this brief exchange, we see an example of effective missional conversations. Such missional opportunities arise when we hold compelling convictions regarding our understanding of, and experience with, Jesus; and when we have established relationships built upon genuine trust and care. When someone knows you consider them a friend, and not an agenda item or project, even the most skeptical will listen to your beliefs. Out of the most natural of conversations between friends, can come the most supernatural of results.

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“Another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:21-22).

In Jewish tradition there was no greater obligation than a son to his father, and no more so than in the responsibility of providing an honorable burial. These strong words of Jesus point to the weightiness and exclusiveness of his call of discipleship upon a persons life; a call so pervasive that all things formerly deemed as important, noble, and honorable are now considered dead or dying. The passionate pursuit of Christ is the only course leading to life. Everything else is a dead end.

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“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ’God forbid it, Lord!’” (Matthew 16:22).

Peter has usurped and assumed a divine position by his emphatic statement of what God cannot do. When Jesus blessed him and his rock-solid confession, Peter offered no protest. Yet, when Jesus began describing a messianic path of suffering and death, Peter became indignant. While prideful arrogance leads us to assume that our preferences must surely be God’s, the challenge is to humbly, prayerfully, and constantly subjugate our will and expectations to God’s, and his eternal purposes. Even when in conflict with our desires, it’s only when we follow what God’s word sets forth that we discover what God can do.

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“Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1).

Visions of God, the word of God, and the reassurance of God’s presence among his people, came to Ezekiel not in the Temple, nor in Jerusalem, but among the exiles in the land of the Chaldeans (v.3). The exile experience would see Jerusalem destroyed, families displaced, the socio/economic infrastructure decimated, and a forced migration to Babylon. Even so, the testimony of the prophet is that they are neither alone nor forgotten; God is with them. Wherever you are, and whatever your present circumstances, you can be certain that it is but a providentially placed page within the still-being-written history of God’s redemptive purposes.

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“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this way you must help the weak and rememberer the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

For an individualistic, self-preoccupied generation, consumed with its own experiential feelings and emotions, there is a growing body of evidence, within the behavioral sciences, indicating that the most effective means for “getting out of one’s own head” is to be found in volunteering time, caring for others, and being financially generous. Though it would seem counter-intuitive, the data reveals a significant impact is to be had upon one’s mental and physical well-being. As believers, we should not be surprised that an ethic of obedience to the teachings of Jesus pays dividends for all concerned; that when we all act as benefactors, we all become beneficiaries.

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“I certainly believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

To read this passage with only a view to eternity is a chronological misplacement. As a statement of confidence, David’s firm conviction is that no matter how his enemies might attack, and though circumstances would seek to prevail against him, he will not only survive but thrive in the goodness of God. It’s another affirmation that the life of faith isn’t a means of escape, that you might fly away to the sweet-bye-and-bye, but a way of engagement, that you might flourish in the ugly here and now.

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“But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage” (Ezra 9:8).

The testimony of God’s salvation history, and the unbroken presence of his people in the annals of time, is best seen not in the masses of religious indifference, but the few who are counted among the company of the committed. When humanity exists in unbridled form; living with no sense of the Creator; having abandoned the designed boundaries of the Boundary Maker, it is the few that will stand out as light in the darkness. Those willing to drive down the stake of unwavering, and uncompromising, faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ, stand as the only hope for those presently exiled to their own despair. Just as the remnant is a product of God’s grace, the remnant bears witness to the availability of God’s grace; to all that would receive it by faith.

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“If an army encamps against me, my heart will not fear; if war arises against me, in spite of this I am confident” (Psalm 27:3).

Decide now! Decide now to be there; that when the moment presents itself, you will be present and accounted for. Like the psalmist, and before the circumstances ever present themselves, we must set our heart a certain way. Before injustice occurs, we must decide to be there as an advocate for justice. Before cruelty raises its head, we must decide to be a presence of kindness. Before grief makes its visitation, we must decide to live hopefully. When judgmental spirits are condemning, we must decide to be gracious and redeeming. As a people of the Way, we must choose to be in the way; an elevating presence among the brokenness of the human condition.

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